The Jacksonville Jaguars picked Josh Allen seventh overall in the NFL Draft. Here’s what Stephen White had to say about Allen ahead of the draft.
I couldn’t wait to check Josh Allen out to see if he was the real deal. What little I had heard about him before working on this article tended to be focused on him as a pass rusher more than anything else. Well, it turns out he was a much better player than I was anticipating when I turned on his tape.
Far from “just” a pass rusher, this dude could do it all! He played the run really well and he was pretty damn physical when the situation called for it. Run stopper may not be his No. 1 attribute, but he is certainly a difference maker against the run.
For a guy who is listed at 6’5 and 260 pounds, Allen was quick as a cat, and fast as a hiccup to boot. When it came to all the other aspects of playing outside linebacker, you would have thought he was a much smaller guy with the way he moved. As a pass rusher, he showed a tremendous ability to turn the corner and get pressure on the quarterback. In coverage, he looked so natural and fluid in his drops that he damn near looked like a big safety at times.
The full package of potential that this guy brings to the table is low-key preposterous!
[How’s the pick stack up? 2019 first round NFL Draft grades right here!]
It was obvious that Kentucky knew the kind of special talent it had in Allen, too, because the coaches used him in a variety of ways in different coverages in the four games I watched. One play he might be out jamming the slot receiver, the next he might be buzzing the flat to help double-team a wide receiver by undercutting his routes, and the play after that he might line up out on the wide receiver and jam him before floating over to his actual coverage responsibility.
For some edge rush prospects I get frustrated watching the plays where they drop because they seem like wasted plays where they could be rushing the passes. But with Allen, he was as big of a factor in the passing defense at times when he dropped, helping to prevent some throws from even being attempted.
Allen doesn’t make it easy on the OL who try to block him.
His technique when taking on blocks was superb, and it in turn helped him to be very productive, too. Allen’s arms looked pretty long on film, which makes sense for a 6’5 guy, and he did a wonderful job of using those long arms to the fullest. He got full extension with them when he engaged with offensive linemen and tight ends, keeping them at arms’ length, so to speak.
That was a major key to him being able to consistently disengage off of blockers and go try to make a play before they could lock on to him. He was always active with his hands, and he never stopped his feet. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw a time in those four games when he just accepted the fact that he was blocked. He kept working and working to try to get to the ball, no matter what.
There were a couple of times where I saw him get driven off the ball, but that usually involved a double-team and those plays were definitely anomalies.
Anybody can get caught slipping a time or two, but what matters is what you see on a continual basis. I was also particularly impressed with how Allen would get upfield when teams tried to run the ball right at him; then, after he had set the edge and forced the running back to turn upfield, he’d quickly fall back inside the blocker to make the tackle. That allowed him to make a bunch of plays in close proximity to the line of scrimmage.
Of his 20 non-sack tackles in those four games, 12 of them came on plays where the runner gained two yards or fewer. That’s what I call a pretty damn good run defender.
I am betting you didn’t click on this draft profile expecting me to extol the virtues of Allen as a run defender, but the truth is Allen was so productive against the run that I would’ve considered him a decent edge rush prospect even without his many other impressive abilities at the position. But, man oh man, are his “other” abilities oh so extremely alluring, as well.
In just four games, Allen racked up six sacks and seven other pressures, and that was in spite of the fact that Kentucky had him dropping back in coverage quite a bit.
Let me also point out that Allen wasn’t just a one-trick pony as a pass rusher either. He didn’t show a ton of moves, but he was able to use his lateral quickness to get to the quarterback quite a bit rather than just leaning on speed rushes all the time to get the job done.
Just as when he was playing the run, Allen was also very active with his hands as a pass rusher, and that allowed him to make it real hard for offensive linemen to get their hands on him. It also helped him to get their hands off of him and escape off blocks on those rare occasions when those offensive linemen were successful.
He didn’t do bunch of power rushes in the games I watched, but I believe he showed on film he’s definitely strong enough to mix that in to his repertoire a little more on the next level. The one time I did see him use a long arm move he was successful with it.
If he can develop just that one move into a weapon he can consistently win with, it’s going to be hell on the offensive tackles who try to block him one-on-one.
Allen can make an impact even when he’s not pressuring the QB.
As a pass rusher, Allen certainly showed first-round ability on tape. I have no doubt he can step on the field on day one and help most NFL teams get to the quarterback. But, again, that’s far from his only selling point. I have to say, watching him in coverage actually made me ponder if he would be better as an off-the-ball linebacker who blitzes from time to time, rather than a full-time edge rusher.
He also looked good when he dropped back in coverage, then had to break up on a short route out in space and make a tackle.
Allen only had a single pass breakup in those four games, but that one came at a crucial point in the upset win over Florida on a two-point play near the end of the game. But even if you ignore the context, the play itself was splendid.
Allen was a backside defender and when he saw Florida running a rollout away from him, he momentarily let his guard down and a Gators receiver running a shallow crosser blew right by him. But he wheeled around and recovered just enough to put himself in position to jump up and tip the pass high enough where the Florida receiver couldn’t come down in bounds with it off the ricochet.
There are college defensive backs who would’ve had trouble trying to make the same play.
More than a few, in fact.
Allen doesn’t just go after the QB. He goes after the ball, too.
It’s clear to me that Allen can do it all at linebacker. Selfishly, however, I hope whichever team drafts him allows him to rusher the passer on a regular basis because the guy knows how to get after the quarterback.
I also positively loved how Allen went after the ball as he was sacking the quarterback, too. He wasn’t content with just getting to the passer; he was trying to get a change of possession as well.
That’s how he was able to force fumbles on half of those six sacks. That is pretty insane, by the way.
Allen has quite a knack for finding the ball as well, which is how he ended up with two fumble returns in the one game where he didn’t have any sacks against Georgia. The precision with which he scooped the ball and was able to recover it with Georgia players grabbing for it on both plays was uncanny. This guy just shows up and finds ways to make plays, no matter where he is lined up or what he is asked to do on those plays.
The biggest question is how an NFL team uses him.
I won’t say that Allen is a “perfect” prospect, but the truth is I couldn’t really find a major weakness in his game. He jumped offsides a couple of times, he could stand to use a few more counter moves off his speed rushes, and, like I said before, he got driven off the ball a handful of times. But for the most part, the guy just looked fantastic taking on some pretty good competition.
Allen has good functional strength, he’s athletic as hell, and he appears to have a pretty high football IQ. I’m just not sure what more you could ask for if you were actually trying to design a prototypical linebacker/edge rusher for this era. A Swiss Army knife against the pass, and a helluva run defender too.
What I actually think will be the biggest issue facing the team that drafts him will be trying to decide where to put him so that he can make the greatest positive impact for the team long term.
I remember when Anthony Barr was coming out and I wasn’t sure whether he would be an edge rusher or an off-the-ball linebacker either, although I was leaning more toward edge rusher. Then the Vikings ended up taking him in the first round and making him into an off-the-ball linebacker after all. He’s turned into a really good player there, and it’s hard to argue against the move at this point.
Allen looks even more natural in coverage than Barr did to me, so I absolutely do think he could be used in a similar fashion on the next level.
I personally feel like he has the potential to be great whether he is an edge rusher or an-off the-ball linebacker. It’s just a matter of putting him in positions to succeed wherever he lines up. I do believe that rushing the passer is the area where he can be most impactful right off the bat, but with his skillset a team would almost have to go out of its way to ruin Allen for him not to be successful on the field.
Realistically after watching his film, I’m not even sure a terrible team could do that.
Allen will make a name for himself right away in the NFL.
Because his is only the third draft profile I’ve done so far this spring, I couldn’t compare him to any other edge rushers, but in most years I would think of him as a definite top-10 talent. Unless there is an off-the field knock on him that I’m unaware of, he’s going to fill up a lot of stat sheets right away, barring injury.
As you can probably tell by now, I really like Allen as a prospect. I can just see the potential to do so many awesome things with him in the NFL. Hell, I didn’t even mention the fact that he would also be a viable option as a 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the ground rather than a two-point stance. Talk about an excellent chess piece for a competent defensive coordinator!
If Allen goes to a team where they know how to use him, that kid could be an all-star almost immediately, if not sooner.
For the purposes of this breakdown I watched Josh Allen play against Florida, Missouri, Georgia, and Penn State. Those represented the second, eighth, ninth, and 13th games on Kentucky’s schedule last season, respectively.